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Nestle Philippines vs NLRC Case Digest

Nestle Philippines, Inc. vs. NLRC and Union of Filipro Employees 193 SCRA 504 Facts: Four (4) collective bargaining agreements separately covering the petitioner's employees in its Alabang/Cabuyao factories; Makati Administration Office. (Both Alabang/Cabuyao factories and Makati office were represented by the respondent, Union of Filipro Employees [UFE]);Cagayan de Oro Factory represented by WATU; and Cebu/Davao Sales Offices represented by the Trade Union of the Philippines and Allied Services (TUPAS), all expired on June 30, 1987. UFE was certified as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for all regular rank-and-file employees at the petitioner's Cagayan de Oro factory, as well as its Cebu/Davao Sales Office. In August 1987, while the parties, were negotiating, the employees at Cabuyao resorted to a "slowdown" and walk-outs prompting the petitioner to shut down the factory. Marathon collective bargaining negotiations between the parties ensued. On September 1987, the UFE declared a bargaining deadlock. On September 8, 1987, the Secretary of Labor assumed jurisdiction and issued a return to work order. In spite of that order, the union struck, without notice, at the Alabang/Cabuyao factory, the Makati office and Cagayan de Oro factory on September 11, 1987 up to December 8, 1987. The company retaliated by dismissing the union officers and members of the negotiating panel who participated in the illegal strike. The NLRC affirmed the dismissals on November 2, 1988. On January 26, 1988, UFE filed a notice of strike on the same ground of CBA deadlock and unfair labor practices. However, on March 30, 1988, the company was able to conclude a CBA with the union at the Cebu/Davao Sales Office, and on August 5, 1988, with the Cagayan de Oro factory workers. The union assailed the validity of those agreements and filed a case of unfair labor practice against the company on November 16, 1988. After conciliation efforts of the NCMB yielded negative results, the dispute was certified to the NLRC. The NLRC issued a resolution on June 5, 1989, whose pertinent disposition regarding the union's demand for liberalization of the company's retirement plan for its workers. the NLRC issued a resolution denying the motions for reconsideration. With regard to the Retirement Plan, the NLRC held that Anent management's objection to the modification of its Retirement Plan, the plan is specifically mentioned in the previous bargaining agreements thereby integrating or incorporating the provisions thereof to the agreement. By reason of its incorporation, the plan assumes a consensual character which cannot be terminated or modified at will by either party. Consequently, it becomes part and parcel of CBA negotiations. Petitioner alleged that since its retirement plan is non-contributory, Nestle has the sole and exclusive prerogative to define the terms of the plan because the workers have no vested and demandable rights, the grant thereof being not a contractual obligation but merely gratuitous. At most the company can only be directed to maintain the same but not to change its terms. It should be left to the discretion of the company on how to improve or modify the same. Issue: Whether or not the workers have vested and demandable rights over the retirement plan. Ruling: The Court ruled that employees have a vested and demandable right over the retirement plan. The inclusion of the retirement plan in the collective bargaining agreement as part of the package of economic benefits extended by the company to its employees to provide them a measure of financial security after they shall have ceased to be employed in the company, reward their loyalty, boost their morale and efficiency and promote industrial peace, gives "a consensual character" to the plan so that it may not be terminated or modified at will by either party.

The fact that the retirement plan is non-contributory, i.e., that the employees contribute nothing to the operation of the plan, does not make it a non-issue in the CBA negotiations. As a matter of fact, almost all of the benefits that the petitioner has granted to its employees under the CBA salary increases, rice allowances, midyear bonuses, 13th and 14th month pay, seniority pay, medical and hospitalization plans, health and dental services, vacation, sick & other leaves with pay are noncontributory benefits. Since the retirement plan has been an integral part of the CBA since 1972, the Union's demand to increase the benefits due the employees under said plan, is a valid CBA issue. The petitioner's contention, that employees have no vested or demandable right to a noncontributory retirement plan, has no merit for employees do have a vested and demandable right over existing benefits voluntarily granted to them by their employer. The latter may not unilaterally withdraw, eliminate or diminish such benefits.